International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Marine Environmental Protection
Committee (MEPC 71) opens today in London, the Clean Arctic Alliance
called on IMO member states to support a Canadian proposal to mitigate the
risks posed by the use of heavy fuel oil (HFO) in Arctic waters.
backed by Finland, Germany, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway and the US, has
submitted a proposal to MEPC, calling for work to begin on mitigating the risks
of use and carriage of heavy fuel oil (HFO) as fuel by ships in the Arctic.
climate change already having enormous impacts on the Arctic region, the Clean
Arctic Alliance is calling on IMO members states to support Canada’s proposal,
and commence work immediately to reduce the risks posed by the use of heavy
fuel oil by shipping in Arctic waters”, said Sian Prior, Lead
Advisor to the Clean Arctic Alliance, a coalition of international
non-governmental organisations work for an Arctic phase-out of HFO. “IMO
members must also commit to complying with any subsequent measures taken to
reduce risks from HFO, including a ban on its use in the Arctic”.
oil is a dirty and polluting fossil fuel that powers ships throughout our seas
and oceans. Around 75% of marine fuel currently carried in the Arctic is
HFO; over half by vessels flagged to non-Arctic states – countries that have
little if any connection to the Arctic.
But as sea
ice melts and opens up Arctic waters further, even larger non-Arctic state
flagged vessels fuelled by HFO are likely to divert to Arctic waters in search
of shorter journey times. Combined with an increase in Arctic state flagged
vessels targeting previously non-accessible resources, this will greatly
increase the risks of a HFO spill.
banned in Antarctic waters, if HFO is spilled in the colder waters of the
Arctic, it breaks down slowly, with long-term devastating effects on both
livelihoods and ecosystems. HFO is also a higher source of harmful
emissions of air pollutants, such as sulphur oxide, nitrogen oxide and
particulate matter, including black carbon, than alternative fuels such as
distillate and liquid natural gas (LNG). When emitted and deposited on Arctic
snow or ice, the climate warming effect of black carbon is five times more than
when emitted at lower latitudes, such as in the tropics.
A number of
shipping organisations, including expedition tour operator Hurtigruten and the
Danish Shipowner’s Association (Danske Rederier) have already called for a ban
on heavy fuel oil from the Arctic. On June 29, ahead of MEPC71, IMO the
Association also announced that it also supports a
ban on HFO use in the Arctic.
“New IMO measures,
including a cap on the sulphur content of ships’ fuel, mean that shipowners are
currently considering technologies to allow the ships to continue operating on
HFO beyond 2020, it’s vital that the IMO’s work to agree measures on HFO risk
mitigation in the Arctic be carried out immediately, so that the highest
standards for shipping can be adopted and implemented in this especially
vulnerable region”, concluded Prior. “It would be ridiculous to delay action
until Arctic shipping operators have installed technology in the form of scrubbers,
which will allow the continued use of HFO beyond 2020, only to then decide to
ban HFO because of the spill risk.”